NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Yale (5-10-1, 4-6-0), unbeaten in two 2006 games and playing in front of a home crowd at Ingalls Rink, got a reality check tonight from No. 11 New Hampshire (11-7-4, 8-3-3). Though outshot 46-33, the Wildcats scored early and never trailed, beating the Bulldogs 4-1 in the non-league contest.
New Hampshire forward Thomas Fortney opened the scoring while shorthanded midway through the first period. Catching an outlet pass from defenseman Craig Switzer during a bad Yale change, Fortney broke in two-on-one and wristed a shot through the five-hole of freshman goalie Alec Richards, who was named ECACHL rookie of the week for his play against Princeton and Quinnipiac last weekend. The sweeping shot, which seemed to catch Richards off guard, was New Hampshire”s second shorthanded tally of the season.
Matt Fornataro extended the UNH lead moments later on another two-on-one. Having learned not to underestimate the shooter on odd-man rushes, Richards challenged Mike Radja as he streaked in from the right circle. Unfortunately for Yale, so did defenseman Chris Brooks, leaving Fornataro open for an easy score.
Yale responded with just over five minutes remaining in the period when center Brad Mills, who led the team in scoring as a sophomore a year ago but has been nursing a sprained knee this season, made a sparkling pass in the neutral zone. Off balance but spying his linemates slipping behind the UNH defense, Mills snapped the puck to the tape of Jeff Hristovski”s stick to set up a two-on-one. Hristovski cradled the pass and dished it to the far side, where Jean-Francois Boucher redirected it past Jeff Pietrasiak.
Since Mills returned from injury after the holiday break, the threesome has fast become Yale”s most potent on offense. After the game, Boucher had nothing but praise for his playmaking linemates, who also held New Hampshire”s top unit scoreless.
“They”re just really good players,” he said. “You always know they”re going to find you, and find you for an open net.”
Yale would have little else to celebrate. Eleven minutes into the second period defenseman Brian Yandle, the Wildcat captain, reestablished the two-goal lead when Brian Pouliot, holding the puck behind the net and surveying an exhausted Bulldog defense, found him creeping in from the point. By the time Richards turned to face Yandle the red light was flashing behind him.
An inspired Yale power-play early in the third period, with great puck movement, a flurry of shots, fancy stickhandling by Blair Yaworski but no goal, would be Yale”s last chance.
“That kind of woke me up a little bit coming out in the third, getting a bunch of shots right away,” said Pietrasiak, who made 45 saves in all.
Yandle added a second goal to put the game out of reach, and UNH had a fifth goal near the end of regulation called back when Switzer and Michael Karwoski were whistled for coincidental minors behind the play. But even the frustrating call could not spoil New Hampshire”s mood.
“This wasn”t our best performance,” UNH head coach Richard Umile said. “But we had some good offense tonight. Our guys made plays when they had to. We got scoring from all our lines tonight, which is something we”ve been looking to see more of. And Jeff Pietresiak played very well. He was the star tonight.”
In the home locker room, Yale head coach Tim Taylor tried to put a positive spin on his team”s three-goal loss.
“I thought that was one of our best games,” he said. “We defensed a pretty good offensive team pretty well. They just made their chances count a little more efficiently than we did.”